Hacking Attention, and What it Means for Our Children

For the past two weeks, I have been lurking on the #engageMOOC (Engagement in Time of Polarization – EdX) course, reading and participating where I could, but not contributing at all (bad timing for me).  I am once again struck by all of the conversations about our attention, and how it is hijacked by technology (designers).

We live in times of outrage.

Outrage is most likely to hold our attention, and attention is how the technology designers make their money.

Outrage and attention are the currency of the digital age.

How do you respond to outrage online?


As adults, we frequently make disparaging statements about how kids are “always on their phones’, but that is exactly what their phones are designed to do.  We just rarely bother to tell the children and young people that they are holding something in their hands that is designed to make them addicted to it, staying on it instead of engaging in the activities that build their mental health and emotional skills.

From How your Fear and Outrage are being sold for profit (click image for link)


As attention is being sucked away, how do we help people to try to be more productive and avoid ‘attention residue”?  Spark (episode 386) includes an interview with Sophie LeRoy where she gives us some ideas on how to maintain focus and be more productive, skills we are not currently teaching our children.

Tech companies and app designers are brilliant in getting you sucked into clickbait 


And while all this is going on, our kids are missing out on the things that keep them well – exercise, being outdoors, conversations.

From “Your Attention Please“:


We have to stop blaming them and start teaching them!  Even when they follow a newspaper or news source on Facebook, they will only get the posts that the algorithm allows, not the full range of information.

We get selected information that is private to us. We don’t compare it with what other people are reading, and in this way, we are being controlled by the app and the AI decisions that personalize what we are given to read.


Clickbait works


Featured image:

Anthony de Kroon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: